John Keane: Elections are joyous carnivals of equality

John Keane, Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney, writes in The Conversation a response to David van Reybrouck’s “tired democracy” argument, which Keane presents as an argument for “the replacement of periodic elections, the ritual of citizens choosing parliamentary representatives, by government based on random selection and allotted assemblies of citizens considered as equals”. It may be worth noting that this description overstate’s van Reybrouck’s position significantly and contradicts Keane’s own disclaimer later on about “a deep prevarication in [van Reybrouck’s] work about whether or not elected legislatures should be replaced in their entirety by a ‘parliament of allotted citizens’”.

Keane responds to van Reybrouck by enumerating the mystical wonders of elections:

Democratic representation […] defies the distinction between mimicry (mandating, or issuing instructions) and self-sacrifice by delegation. It rather involves freely and fairly choosing others to take decisions for a fixed period of time. Representation means keeping continuous public tabs on politicians, then throwing them from office at the next election, or when their time is up. It’s much too simple to say that voting is equivalent to throwing away votes. Representation by election is a clever way of rotating leaders. It is equally a method of reminding citizens publicly that the body politic contains disagreements, and that those who act as if there’s consensus can turn out to be politically dangerous.

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